‘This is a huge burden on families:’ Henrico students missing classes thanks to bus driver shortage

Henrico County

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) –Late drop-offs and pick-ups add to the long list of how the bus driver shortage is impacting local communities.

In Henrico, many drivers are doing double, some — triple runs back and forth from schools. This means some students aren’t getting picked up until after school starts. In one Glen Allen community, parents who aren’t okay with the delays are banding together.

Kirin Whitehead said when her middle school daughter rides the morning bus, she gets picked up 30 minutes after school started.

“It created significant anxiety for my daughter,” Whitehead told 8News, adding that her daughter misses her first-period class and eventually gets to school “well into” her second period.

“Middle school’s hard as it is. I’m not gonna put her through that,” the mother said.

Realizing the delays may last a while, parents in her northwestern Henrico neighborhood are finding their own solution: carpooling.

“We have a wonderful neighborhood and we take care of each other,” Whitehead said.

Each week, parents take turns bringing the neighborhood children to their schools. Because of traffic on the way and near the school, the round-trip can take anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes, according to Whitehead.

She said it’s a solution that works but is not ideal, especially for working parents.

“Every family is a two-family working parent with multiple kids and we’ve got families with kids in multiple schools,” Whitehead said. “This is a huge burden on families.”

The mom of two also recognizes that not every neighborhood or family is able to bring their own kids to class each day and worries about the kids who have no choice but to just be late.

“There’s a lot of kids that have different learning experiences and I just think after being virtual last year, all year for a lot of kids, now having them late every day is another challenge they don’t need,” Whitehead said.

Last week, HCPS Chief of Operations Lenny Pritchard said the district is still down 100 drivers even after announcing incentives like hiring and retention bonuses and pay increases. However, 50 potential drivers are in the application and onboarding process right now, according to Pritchard. Because of training and licensing requirements, that process takes at least about six weeks.

“Many of our drivers that we’re hoping to capture begin classes in October,” Pritchard said “So you’re looking at well into thanksgiving… where these things can be addressed.”

HCPS is offering all students free breakfasts during the 2021-2022 school year. Whitehead noted that students who are getting to school late won’t be able to take advantage of that.

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